Well, I won’t lie. I had fun. Dan Brown novels are like Michael Bay movies, both were once cool and are now timeworn by overstaying the welcome. Well, if you are content with what to expect, both could still be solid no brainier entertainments. But this one surprised me, by being bad. I was more curious about whether everything in this book will remain in Spain or move to Catalonia by the time I finished it, than the promised big secret. ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’, right?
For the fifth time in a row, existence of the world is threatened by a ‘secret’; unraveling of which, requires a complicated scheme of identifying patterns and solving codes hidden in modern art and literature by nefarious cults over centuries. And again for the fifth time in a row, it is up to Harward symbologist Prof. Robert Langdon to solve this mystery alongside his brand new disposable female Boswell, while being chased by Police, though cooperating with them is a perfectly logical option. I was all in for this formula, but Brown decided to up the game by giving Langdon a personal Jarvis and his own version of conspiracy reddit filled with cancer inducing hash tags. And if you, like me, are expecting some continuation or even mention of the Childhoods End scenario, Inferno had left us in, prepare to be disappointed; it gets zero mention at all. The trans-formative discovery at the end of the book, which is the primary incentive for readers, was doomed to be a presentation on thermodynamics and diffusion physics from the very start, despite the over dramatic built up of an Apple event. I was left all the more infuriated by Brown comparing his big secret with Copernicus’s heliocentrism, Darwin’s evolution and Einstein’s relativity, while all he did was to pretend like he just invented the genre of cyberpunk.
I might have grown too old to enjoy this, but more importantly, I think Dan Brown has grown older. You know it’s too far fetching when Langdon has to deduce corporate logos such as Uber, to show his specialty of ‘romance in short notice.’ Dan Brown repeatedly asserts Langdon’s female companion as a woman of her own, and then goes ahead to prove her otherwise. He was trying too hard to be cool, by hook or crook, from Asimov, Clarke, Blake to Star Wars and Fermi Paradox and Ted Talks and Neil deGrasse Tyson. And there were product placements, I don’t know whether that is a thing for books, but, CNN, Uber, Tesla, Apple and FedEx do seem to have their hand in sponsorship. Below is a cringy example
“In reality, Edmond loved attention, and admitted to keeping his plane at Sabadell only to have an excuse to drive the winding roads to his home in his favorite sports car—a Tesla Model X P90D that Elon Musk had allegedly hand-delivered to him as a gift. Supposedly, Edmond had once challenged his jet pilots to a one-mile drag race on the runway—Gulfstream vs. Tesla—but his pilots had done the math and declined.”
Usually data dumping and random facts in Dan Brown novels concatenate to some extent, here they weren’t conclusive at all, even If one ignore the significance. Also most of the things that he explains as cutting edge technology like bone conducting headphones, dark web, advancements in AI were already too main stream to incite any awe; and he seemed to have saturated the conspiracy resources from the past as well. Also the world is more liberal to have been shattered by the prospectus of religion or death of it.
Despite everything, this book had me hooked. I finished it in a day, and there isn’t a single book that can boast that in recent times. I was fascinated by the introduction to arts and architecture like Guggenheim Museum, Sagrada Familia and other works of Gaudí. The book had its redeeming elements, the edginess that might have been appealing to your teenage self openly and your old self as guilty pleasure. Atheism and Christian imagery, Historic figures and mysterious cults, Langdon figuring out codes that no one else can and feeling embarrassed that it had taken him so long, Artemis Fowl-ish know-it-all-do-it-all technocrats, over dramatic introductions, pompous arts and academics, edgy philosophy, extreme displays of royalty, loyalty and fanaticism, factoids and verbatims, matter of single digit minutes spanning over chapters in double digits, forgettable ladies etc. And above all, Robert Langdon surviving a fall. There were many serious deviations from Dan Brown’s usual structure as well. Langon came out more as a gunter researching on Halliday than the eminent scholar of ancient history he is renowned for. Also whole episode happens in Spain, or what is now Spain, rather than the Universal or Eurasian aspect of previous installments. Who knows, maybe he is counting on the Catalan referendum.
Origin is the least entertaining work by Dan Brown in my opinion, at least among Robert Langdon series. Nevertheless, if you are up for a no brainier, fast paced, conspiracy filled read, this book has you covered. There is enough to make you feel like an armchair conspiracy theorist, though it may not be the best use of your time.
Langdon watched the phone plummet down and splash into the dark waters of the Nervión River. As it disappeared beneath the surface, he felt a pang of loss, staring back after it as the boat raced on.
Robert,” Ambra whispered, “just remember the wise words of Disney’s Princess Elsa.
Langdon turned. “I’m sorry?”
Ambra smiled softly. “Let it go.”
I have decided to follow the wise words of Disney Princess Elsa and let it go, at least till the next book. 🙂